And so it is that with the town of North Hempstead's Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) covering the Lockheed Martin property, something outrageous has been transmitted into something more outrageous, or is it something ordinary? The final is an improvement only if one can be satisfied with a mere embellishment of the same layering of disconnected approaches outlined in the draft, rather than presents anything new or addresses the major concerns. The problem with all "generic" EISs is that they take for granted the sureness of their own analysis. The idea that the issues facing complex modern communities like Manhasset Hills, NHP, Lake Success and Herricks can be reduced to a few simple quantifiable concerns, such as an increase of 'x' number of cars at various intersections, or that privately owned grass and shrub space can in any way be confused with publically accessible parks, green spaces and playing fields, is as dangerous as it is alarming. Let us focus briefly on just a few of the key environmental and quality of life issues that are not being addressed.
On the environmental side, "approvable," or legal development and pollution remediation are based on the notion that it is "acceptable" to affect an increase of one in a hundred thousand or one million additional cases of cancer. While we, the affected, may not find this very acceptable, one must also note that these risks are based on models, albeit, sometimes sophisticated models, but for all the science that goes into them they are best guesstimates. They gloss over some facets and emphasize others. They are generalizations, they are inherently inaccurate! In the case of Woburn MA, and in the case of Toms River NJ, the latter of which the federal government has spent well over $25 million remediating and studying the environmental problems, in both cases risk assessments failed horribly to predict and account for the cancer clusters that were discovered. And in Tom's River, they still fail! I rest my case.
Regarding quality of life issues, the GEIS fails to address the fact that we simply do not have enough public park lands and public open space. It fails to address the increase in pollution, in traffic and travel times not only at GEIS targeted intersections, but the areas in between, as well as for miles around. It does not deal with the increased frustration, with the overall higher price of dealing with just the basic requirements of day to day living, let alone the added complications of getting to and from work, or anywhere else for that matter. The irony is that no one in their right mind would choose to face these things if given the choice in the first place.
Well, guess what? We do have a choice, and a voice, and the lesson of the day is that it is a failed policy from the beginning and the longer it goes on, the clearer it becomes that the Newburger administration is not addressing our concerns. It isn't even listening! For the benefit of our inimical slow learners in town hall let me point out another thing that the GEIS fails to address. Ben Zwirn's putative re-election campaign failed precisely because he failed to catch on early enough that the community did not want a Home Depot or similar monstrosity dumped on Denton Ave. The back-lash was virulent enough to cost a close election to the then new Ms. Newburger. Obviously, Ms. Newburger did not learn that lesson well enough, either. Perhaps a crash course is in order.
We must ask ourselves whether we are to lead the charge to a better future for our children and our communities, or beat a hasty retreat in the face of inevitable sprawl and creeping urbanization. Make no mistake, the planned development moves us farther down that road. It is one of a long line of ill-planned and ill-coordinated developments being forced on us. Its magnitude might just as well serve as a measure of the anonymity that threatens to overwhelm us and turn us into an extension of Queens. It exacerbates the worst of the problems we want to avoid. That is what is at stake, and there has never been a more important time to get involved than now.
(Stephen Cipot is a trustee for the Hillside Public Library and a project manager for the US Environmental Protection Agency and he was the head project manager for EPA's Tom's River project between 1990-1996.)